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We’ve just come back from Disney on Ice: Worlds of Fantasy, their latest creation. The kids are in bed, they fell asleep with smiles on their faces. I could stop there really, it sums up the experience quite well…
It was a little… like going to Disneyland. The wait, the anticipation, imagination gone wild, a thousand questions, the bouncing around on the day. Most of the kids will be wearing their favourite costume. Hundreds of princesses, Jessie, Buzz, Woody, little mermaids, a few pirates in the lot. You have stepped into a different universe, where pretend play is real, of course – between cotton candy and sparkles, anything can come true.
The lights went off. In the semi darkness shine magic wands, those with swirling colours, a whole constellation of them. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy arrive. My son looked from his fluffy toy to Mickey, back and forth – so he really exists! Ah, the suddent light in his eyes! It’s quite an adventure on stage, no time to get bored. James stared, mouth open, clapping constantly. He’s 4. My daughter is nearly 9 but she was taking in every single detail and colour. Ariel and Tinkerbell’s worlds were rather amazing, Disney magic at its best, choreographies spot-on, waves, butterflies, spring blooming. The children were all riveted, concentrating so hard, mesmerized.
Parents will probably prefer the Toy Story part, which really made us laugh. The choice of songs (Barbie girl, Come and Rescue Me, Africa, Leave me alone, I need to break free…) proved hilarious, perfect for each scene, unexpected. Ken and Barbie were memorable, trust me. As an adult, a kids’ show is often… a little bit of a sacrifice but we were the first to propose to go and see the next one in autumn: please, please, can we, kids?
Wembley Arena, London 17th – 20th April 2014
Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff 23rd – 27th April 2014
In Matisse’s work, I see Tahiti. The vibrant colours. The ferns, the corals. The hibiscus blooms. The tifaifais, the local patchworks.
This is what I expected from the new exhibition opening at the Tate, one of the largest ever dedicated to the artist. I discovered a different artist in the process. When his health problems stopped him from painting, he became a sculptor. Not of stone, but of paper, cutting straight into it, scissors becoming an extension of his soul as the brush had been before. He could reposition the shapes on the canvas, trying different angles. You read about it beforehand but it only really makes sense when you see it.
Henri Matisse, the cut-outs is like glancing though the looking glass. Step closer – you’ll notice how the shapes are collaged, the meandering charcoal lines, the experimentation. Experts, when analysing Acanthuses, have counted no less than one thousand pin holes… On others, you can imagine a spiral, a grid to better grasp the architecture he had in mind.
A few more things that I held dear… The stained windows he made for the Vence chapel, glass not being a material I associate with Matisse, how the idea consumed him for a while. Oceania, a piece that started randomly, simply by not willing to discard a shape, putting it on the wall to hide an annoying default. Being inspired, transforming the whole room by adding corals, leaves, birds. And of course, the absolute must-see, the four blue nudes, reunited for the very first time. These voluptuous female silhouettes have a Picasso side to me, a de-constructed geometry carefully reinvented.
If you are not familiar with the artist’s work, this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see 130 pieces at once, fully absorbing his art (which you really should follow by a visit to the Matisse museum in Nice to fully grasp the colours, so very different in the light of the south of France, where they originated). If you already admire him, you will learn so much more about this techniques, be touched by his slight hesitations, his repositioning… This makes him curiously more human.
Henri Matisse, the cut-outs
Until September 7th 2014
London SE1 9TG
You don’t expect it there. The Barbican. A maze of grey concrete. You have heard of it, glimpsed it from the outside but it was always closed. Vibrant green in a surprising conservatory, exotic flowers, Japanese carp, palmtrees, ferns. Discreet stairs lead you to the upper floor, offer an even better view. You almost expect colourful birds to fly by. It’s like a little holiday from the city…
The conservatory is open to the public every Sunday, free entry.
Barbican Art Gallery
Silk Street, London
Her father was a carpenter by trade. From him, she learnt to see space differently – lines, levels, a clear, precise vision. She uses fabric colours like others a brush, mixing textures, daring a bolder hue or pattern, breaking through the classicism of a room. She has 3 kids which to me would mean constant chaos (house and mind) but she creates superb contemporary rooms with a sense of inner light… Meet Esther Taylor.
Your father was, you say, your first inspiration. Tell us a few childhood memories, what did you learn from him?
I used to love spending time in his workshop. It felt magical and I remember the wonderful smell of freshly cut wood and I was mesmerised by all the machinery. From a young age, my dad would take me to the park and quiz me on my rules of perspective drawing always guiding me softly. I grew up alongside this creativity and spent many hours sketching my own designs on the back of envelopes and spare paper. My creativeness is all down to him.
When did you know this would be your life passion?
For as long I remember. I remember putting schemes together from such an early age and I knew interior design would be my passion as well as my vocation.
Your eyes sparkle, as if you were filled with constant inspiration. How would you define your style, your signature?
Clean and concise, I always like my lines and levels to be perfect when it comes to the structure. When it comes to the interior, I like to layer textures from a similar palette and I give it a pop with colour.
What kind of project do you prefer? A specific theme? The freedom to do anything you want with a room?
A specific theme. I love being challenged and being taken out of my comfort zone. I find I produce my best work when I have to adapt my taste to that of what the client wants.
How do you reinvent a room? Do you have a specific starting point – a feature in the room, a first piece of furniture?
I always try and start with a point of inspiration, be it a fabric, colour, texture or piece of furniture. I then look at that item and see what various directions I can take in terms of design, colour and texture. I will very often ask the client what they have in mind and work with that because ultimately it is the clients’ space. I once designed an entire master suite based on a pillow case!
You have three children – how do you combine design and children in a house? The theory is easy but practically… any tips?
Lots of storage is essential and make sure everything has its place. When the kids are in bed, I make sure that the toys have their own place so that it can all be cleared away in the evening to create an adult environment. There are many amazing wipeable fabrics out there such as vinyl wallpapers that look like silk so you can be clever with your finishes.
Which redesign are you most proud of?
I would say my biggest highlight was designing a boutique hotel in North West London. The building had not been touched since 1874 and whilst I was tasked with creating a contemporary feel, I also had to be mindful of maintaining the Victorian charm which makes it so special. It was a big responsibility and I was extremely proud of the end result.
Monochrome or daring colours?
Definitely monochrome with a fab pop of colour.
Looking at pictures of your work, I have to admire the beautiful angles. How do you use geometry in decoration?
I always ensure that my lines are accurate and picked up correctly on various levels. I think about the point at which two textures, joins or levels meet which I call ‘junctions’ and work back from there.
If you could choose one iconic place to redecorate, which would you go for?
Fan of the haut-couturier? To match The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier, the retrospective of his work at the Barbican, indulge in THE most hyped sweet treat. Yes, PAUL has created a Jean Paul Gaultier écalir, celebrating his famous white and blue Breton stripes… Thin, crunchy chocolate layer, a touch of ganache, traditional chou bun filled with a rich white chocolate cream.
Who needs macarons? The new edible fashion accessory is the éclair…
Limited Edition Jean Paul Gaultier éclair
Available from 9th April in all 32 UK PAUL boutiques
Jean Paul Gaultier. L’enfant terrible de la mode.
What a carreer. 61 years? The age shocked me. This genius of haute couture never seems to age, always dynamic, a contagious smile and sense of humour. Thinking about it, can you pinpoint one year without hearing of him? Punk collections, skirts for men, extraordinary muses from Dita von Teese to Beth Ditto, the Parisienne reinvented and oh, who used to watch Eurotrash?
A restrospective of his work opens at the Barbican. No less than 165 spectacular designs. “Have you realised,” asked Nathalie Bondil during her introduction, “that it is easier these days to see a Van Gogh up close than a haute-couture dress?” Yes, they will seem familiar. You have seen them a hundred times in the magazines, on television. But how best to appreciate the incredible talent and work (by the creator but also his team) than to approach them in person, see the hems, the details, the textiles? Jean Paul Gaultier will admit to having resisted the idea. Museums are, well, for dead people, aren’t they? Yet, he has to admit… it is nevertheless a pleasant feeling.
What did we learn from his interview with the curator of the exhibition, Thierry-Maxime Loriot? Memories. Like his first trips to London. School trips, strange sandwiches (Britain was not renowned for its cuisine which has thankfully improved), loving the English Breakfast. Coming back late. Biba, the shop playing with vintage when the trend was barely born. Cruising the clubs. The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the play, not the movie, smiling at the poster on King’s Road, just red lips on paper. This happiness, the colours, the punk movement, the experimentation with fashion. The strong contrast with Paris where everything had to be serious. London streets? Pure vitamin.
Part of the exhibition is dedicated to the boudoir, passion and obsession. JPG’s grandmother was a faith healer, read Tarot cards and people alike. She would offer comforting words, a beauty mask, tell the future. She definitely had some talent as she predicted her grandson would be very much loved. It is in that slightly magical room that he saw his first corset, learning how women used to drink vinegar to make the stomach contract, fit into this object of both torture and beauty. Of course, he didn’t fit in, was no good at football like the other boys were. He watched the Folie Bergères with his nana, started drawing in class. The teacher, meaning to humiliate, pinned it to his back (a safety pin, already a punk, he jokes). Everyone however noticed his talent for drawing instead, making him realise there might be something there…
But back to the show. The mannequins were created by the Joli Coeur company. They are not static: a video of a face singing, speaking… is projected on the heads. Very realistic and a way to pay a tribute to the people he loves. Surrounded by a coven of strong women, Jean Paul Gaultier admits to have been taken aback by top models not speaking much, having been to told to be beautiful and shut up. Here is the answer to that stereotype of beauty without brains! The male mannequins are more on the homme objet side, roles reversed. Beauty can be so many different things and that value is clearly important to him. He remembers watching Guess who’s coming to dinner - where a young girl presents her black boyfriend to her parents. Not really the norm at the time. Years later, he would be the one presenting a black boyfriend to his parents. But their only care was whether he was in love. And this is reflected in his fashion, this acceptance, multi-culturality, this humanity. Transcending age, size, shape, nationality and colour. Beauty is everywhere, he concludes, if you open your mind.
This exhibition is… like a walk through the artist’s mind. He loves telling the stories, created in fabric and accessories, mixing styles and pieces. Rather than a chronological presentation he favours themes dear to him. The famous marinière, punk, ethnic, boudoir and so many more. His creativity seems limitless – and consistent, it is impossible to separate decades! The word phenomenal was repeated quite a few times… Tweed and denim progressing to angular leather. Camouflage in urban wear. The corset, dominating rather than oppressing, worn on top of the clothes rather than under, a choice not an obligation. His virgins and saints are deeply touching, closer to goddesses, mermaids even sometimes, Joan of Arc like too. Most dresses are hyper-sexualised giving women power over masculine vulnerability. It was supposed to be a tribute to him, he made it a tribute to us.
Oh, and Odile Gilbert’s work on the hair and wigs is simply astonishing, giving an extra spacial dimension to the mannequins.
- The free application created to better enjoy the exhibition. Lots of behind the scenes, insights. And a video introduction by JPG himself.
- The Gaultier pop-up bar, a special martini one. Check it out, the furniture was designed by the artist with Roche Baubois. Open everyday until the end of the exhibition, 17.30 to 21.30.
- A splendid program of screenings, JPG’s favourite movies. including Falbalas on May 22, which inspired him to be a couturier. He will be answering questions on the day.
- Striped éclairs, a collaboration with PAUL. Available in their 32 British shops from 9th April.
The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier - From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk
9th April – 25th August 2014
Barbican Art Gallery
Silk Street, London
Cuckoo definitely is the new generation of bircher mueli. Forget boring. Forget bland. This is something else entirely. Launched last September in a rather designer packaging, it’s climbing the steps to success rather rapidly. Selfridges, Daylesford Organic, Recipease are already fond of it. I like… That there is no big name behind this. Cuckoo was dreamt, designed by two young entrepreneurial graduates, childhood friends: Lucy Wright and Anna Mackenzie. They brought a dynamic twist to a classic recipe from the Swiss Alps. Shebam! Pow! Blop! Wizz! Juicy berries, tangy fruit compotes, linen seeds, jumbo oats. And a very particular creaminess that reminds me of dulce de leche treats. I’m a fan. It’s so indescribably scrumptious that I find it hard to believe it is good for me. I expected it to be as dangerous as Nutella but no, no, no! This has a low GI and less than 300 calories per pot. Really? It’s almost a dessert AND it’s healthy? Bingo! Oh, do dip your spoon to the bottom to get the fruit… My favourite is the Peach & Madagascan Vanilla but the Mango & Coconut, with its tonic ginger note is superb too. Also to be tested: Apple and Cinnamon spice, Elderflower & Cranberry, Dark Chocolate & Sour Cherry. Finally a good reason to wake up in the morning!
Selfridges, Recipease, Daylesford Organic
At first, I thought – oh, a cool kids drink. I am weak. The packaging got me. More teenage than toddler. On the cheeky side. Fun and trendy. My mind took in chocolate milk but I did not really look at the details.
I was working on the computer, clic-clic-clicking the night away, it was getting closer to midnight, getting tired, I needed a distraction. Possibly a chocolatey one – ah, but there was not a square of chocolate in sight. A sudden memory, yes! Rebel Kitchen! The children won’t know… Clac, in goes the straw, still vaguely on autopilot. First sip. Oh wow! It’s fresh, light, not sugary but super good quality cacao filled. I downed it in less than 2 min, yes, that good. Thirst-quenching (in a way that soda never can but milk does) but rich enough to compensate a need for dessert. They do an chocolate-orange one too (it was there, I had to compare, only to be professional, right?) using essential oil flavour to keep that smoothness, framing the chocolate rather than fighting it.
Absolutely delicious. What is this?
A coconut milk chocolate. With date nectar to replace the sugar. A little water. That’s it. No additives, preservatives, artificial-anything.
But who are they? Mmmmh, I guess you could call the Rebel Kitchen the equivalent to taste ninjas. They are fed up with products saturated in salt, sugar, fat and refined products. Whole food is good for you – tastier, healthier, closer to what nature intended. They have a mission.
There are more flavours to try (and I will track them down!): Banana. Matcha. Chai. Snacks will soon be added to the list (and I’m really curious to know what they will be like). Just a request, Rebel Kitchen, could you upgrade the portions to 1L? I finish them way too fast!
Come and join the guerillas fighting for good food.
Stepping out of the London Coffee Festival, I could not resist wandering through colourful Shoreditch. It has always been the core of the street art world, even more so now. To the point that I sometimes wondered whether the pieces were indeed camouflaged in the urban jungle or whether the buildings were starting to be the ones hiding behind all these murals! A few pictures of this safari:
Why go to the London Coffee Festival? Well, one of the many, many reasons is written on the wall over there. Do it decently. It is so easy to kill a good coffee. Water too hard, a movement too fast, not the right filter… Two schools… cohabit, I’d say, rather than fight. Super modern machines and traditional techiques - syphon coffee, V60… I love and use both, find them equally fascinating. They just make the coffee universe more interesting to me.
But mostly… it’s such a wonderful occasion to meet the people behind the known but also lesser-known brands. To test before buying. To discover the coffee you’ve been looking for. To ask a thousand questions, finally learn how to make the best of your latest tool. To get a few barrista tips.
And, surprisingly, this is not all about coffee. I wasn’t sure I agreed at first, to be honest. But… you quickly realise it must be. Your mind saturates, your tastebuds too after the third espresso, even if you are a coffee addict. You need something to rebalance your palate. Also, time flies in there. You’ll get hungry. There is a lot to snack on and a whole room dedicated to street food. So, yes, you can drag your non-coffee-drinking friends there and no, they will not get bored!
A few things/people we loved…
Familiar names: Alpro will be launching a new oat milk drink. Oh, it foams beautifully, perfect for lattes, brilliant! I also met the Café Pod team - if you are still hesitating to buy their Colombia Huila Nespresso compatible capsules, now is your opportunity to taste. Their ristretto is pretty good too.
Love at first coffee sip: too many! There definitely is a bottled Cold Brew trend and that’s great news. The Nude espresso is rather pleasant but to be wowed try the Goodbeans ones, especially the Rwanda, fruity and floral. The process takes… 16 hours, drop by drop. What else? Vienna memories with Julius Meinl - write a poem and you will get an intense espresso for free. Alma de Cuba is a nice middle-roast blend, with cacao notes (and will soon do Nespresso compatible capsules). I was quite impressed with Dona Botero - because they really, really care. About details and about their teams. This is the third generation of the family to work on this coffee and their eyes sparkle. That and there is no acidity at all, it’s pure velvet. Oh, and stop by the Make Decent Coffee lab to learn how to Chemex.
Also go to… see the Tea People team who simply love to share their love of a good product. Their chai is a gem (buy it or you’ll regret it), well balanced, smooth, lots of spices, nice scent and taste of cardamom (the cinnamon dominates chais usually but this one is… perfect). I tip my hat to them. Les jardins de Gaia make a kids-friendly vanilla-strawberry flavoured Rooibos, sweetly called With the Fairies. I also brought back some Karma Cola. I’m weak – the bottle is so cool! But the drink is too: fairtrade, organic and not agressive as chemical sodas are.
Yumminess? I’m now addicted to Propercorn. How did that happen? Their Fiery Worcester Sauce and sundried tomato is like a spicy Bloody Mary in popcorn. Don’t get me started on their vanilla and coconut one, it’s way too good. Ganache Macaron make their treat into a lollipop and it’s too adorable not to be tried. Last – I have never, ever been a fan of fudge, too sugary. But The Fudge Kitchen definitely changed my mind, really infused flavours and it melts in the mouth so well. It’s all about the tempering, they say. They even made a drinking version. Choose your own: ginger, winter spices…
Plan a few hours. The place is huge. There is so much to scan through! Go from one theme to another – it’s easy to saturate and really, this is all rather fascinating. But talk. Talk to the professionals rather than grab a sample and disappear. I promise your coffee will be 10 times better for it.
London Coffee Festival 03-06 April 2014
Old Truman Brewery